DADT and the Fragile Democratic Caucus.

Andrew Sullivan isn't making any sense:

I think this could be a huge deal for the relationship between gay voters and the Democratic party. Over 75 percent of the public wants the ban ended, and yet even when the Democrats control both Houses and have a president opposed to the policy, they failed to end it in two years. Why? Because, sadly, it was not a real priority; and because the main lobby group, the Human Rights Campaign, is so enmeshed in the Democratic party establishment, it has no clout at all.

I understand Sullivan's anger, but in a world where nearly every Democrat voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" -- and every Republican voted against -- it doesn't make any sense to hold Democrats responsible for its failure. In a later post, Sullivan acknowledges this but then goes on to say that Democrats had 60 votes for a full year, and could have taken a vote on repeal at any point during that period. But that's erroneous, on both counts; the 60-vote Democratic caucus began on July 7, 2009 -- with Al Franken's seating -- and came to an end on Feb. 4, 2010, with Scott Brown's entry into the Senate.

Granted, seven months of a 60-vote majority is nothing to dismiss, but it's important to remember that 60 votes isn't the same as 60 reliable votes. Of the members who caucused with the Democratic Party, at least six could be counted on to vote against or delay the party's major priorities: Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Claire McCaskill, and Ben Nelson. Even with a supermajority, moderate and conservative Democrats kept the bulk of the majority from legislating as they saw fit. 

Sullivan is being naive if he thinks that the outcome would have been any different had this vote come up last year, when moderate and conservative Democrats were taking a beating for their (however reluctant) support of health-care reform. Had this vote been taken this time last year, I'm sure that at least one member of the "centrist" brigade would have joined a Republican filibuster.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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